Highwaymen Heritage Trail Festival

Highwaymen Heritage Trail Ribbon Cutting and Festival Set for February 20

If you traveled Florida Route 1 in the 1960s, you may have encountered young African American artists selling lushly-painted Florida landscapes from the trunks of their cars. Jim Crowe segregation prevented the painters from entering galleries – so they sold their works at motels, businesses and to tourists – for $15-$25 apiece.  It is estimated that they created and sold more than 200,000 paintings by the end of the 20th Century.

Many of the blossoming painters were inspired and mentored by Fort Pierce’s world-renown landscape artist Albert Earnest “Bean” Backus, creator of richly-detailed depictions of “Old Florida” scenery. Encouragement from Backus, Lincoln Park Academy art teacher Zanobia Jefferson, and each other helped propel the young entrepreneurs to paint their way out of picking citrus and tomatoes, using wall-board as their canvas and crown molding for frames.

This loosely-associated group of twenty-five men and one woman came to be known as The Highwaymen. Mostly from Fort Pierce, the artists were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004.  Their paintings now sell for thousands of dollars and are sought after by collectors throughout the world.

We hope you will join us on February 20th to celebrate the opening of The Highwaymen Heritage Trail, a tribute to the artists and their contribution to the rich cultural history of Fort Pierce, one of the oldest cities on Florida’s east coast.  The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m. at the Intermodal Transit Facility, 725 Avenue D, in front of an exquisite Royal Poinciana Tree mosaic where the artists’ names are engraved on affixed bronze plaques.

A guided trail tour will begin immediately following the ribbon cutting. The First Annual Highwaymen Art Show featuring many of the original Highwaymen artists and a family-friendly festival will continue along beautiful Moore’s Creek Linear Park until 5:00 p.m.  People wishing to participate in the guided trail tour are asked to RSVP by February 10th to 772-467-3169 or email ewoodruff@city-ftpierce.com.

The Highwaymen Heritage Trail and accompanying website (TheHighwaymenTrail.com) is a four-year project underwritten by two grants from the Florida Humanities Council (FHC) and the City of Fort Pierce. Scholarly research, videographers, website and graphic art designers, area schools, teachers, students, local citizens and many of the original Highwaymen artists contributed to the project’s design and content. 

While you are here, be sure to experience ‘A Tribute to the Humanitarian Legacy of A.E. Backus’, an exhibit at the A.E. Backus Museum and Gallery that will feature vintage paintings by The Highwaymen (1950—1995). The exhibit will run from February 19 through March 11.  The Backus Museum will also hold a Vintage Highwaymen Tent Sale from February 19-21 and is offering free admission to the museum during the Highwaymen Trail festivities. The A.E. Backus Museum and Gallery is located at 500 South Indian River Drive.

Please call Fort Pierce City Hall 772-467-3169 or email ewoodruff@city-ftpierce.com for more information or if you would like your business or nonprofit to participate in the First Annual Highwaymen Art Show and Festival.

Fort Pierce - Highwaymen Save the Date 8-20-15